Top 10 TV Comedy Series of 2011
In 2011, TV comedies continued their improbable comeback against the onslaught of reality shows and every single cop/lawyer/medical drama on television. Which isn't to say that every new comedy was a worthy addition (for example "Perfect Couples" and "Whitney").
However, there are still several great comedy series that deserve recognition. Crave Online has gone over a long list of our favorite series to compile the ten best comedies of 2011. Not all of them have the audience that they should, but they are all worthy of greater exposure.
10: MR. SUNSHINE
For whatever reason, Matthew Perry just hasn't found his "post-Friends" groove on television. Most of Perry's press this year came from his short-lived Fox sitcom from the '80s, "Second Chance;" which seemed to eerily predict the death of Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi to within just a few months.
However, Perry was also the co-creator and star of "Mr. Sunshine" on ABC, a quirky comedy about Ben Donovan, an operations manager for a San Diego arena. During its extremely brief run on ABC, "Mr. Sunshine" showed flashes of real potential and it seemed to be the right showcase for Perry's perpetually exasperated lead character. Former "Better off Ted" costar, Andrea Anders also had an amusing role on "Mr. Sunshine" as Ben's former "friend with benefits" love interest.
But like "Ted," "Mr. Sunshine" was over far too soon.
9: BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD
After 14 years, "Beavis and Butt-Head" returned to MTV last fall for a new season of lunacy. Creator Mike Judge seems to have honed his storytelling instincts on "King of the Hill" and his live action films, giving the new incarnation of "Beavis and Butt-Head" a stronger comedic foundation. The stories are fairly simple, but the slapstick between the two idiots can still be really hilarious, as it was in "The Rat."
But it's during the interstitials that Judge gets to portray his dim-witted duo as smarter than the entire lot of MTV's endless reality show parade, including the parasites on "Jersey Shore;" which shows up far too frequently. The music video commentary remains sublime and there was even a brilliant showcase for "The Human Centipede;" which featured Beavis and Butt-Head in full Ebert and Roeper mode as they enthusiastically praised Tom Six's trash cinema.
In short, "Beavis and Butt-Head" may not be high comedy, but it's still really funny.
Who would have thought that Matt LeBlanc's greatest acting role would be portraying himself?
Unlike his former costar Matthew Perry, LeBlanc has found his TV niche in "Episodes," a sitcom co-produced by Showtime and the BBC. LeBlanc stars as a self-absorbed, egotistical version of himself, who manages to ruin the American adaptation of a British TV series (and the marriage) of a comedy writing team, Sean (Stephen Mangan) and Beverly Lincoln (Tamsin Greig).
It's LeBlanc's willingness to make himself look bad that gives "Episodes" most of its punch. LeBlanc seems to have accepted the idea that most people think that he can't act… and he embraces it so fully that in the few times that LeBlanc's fictional counterpart shows vulnerability it really makes him seem human again.
Even more than "Family Guy," "Futurama" will always be the animated show that Fox should never have canceled in the first place.
And while its second year on Comedy Central wasn't quite as strong as its first, "Futurama" still had several great episodes like "Law & Oracle," "Ghost In The Machines," "Reincarnation" and "Overclockwise;" which seemed to chart out the future of Fry (Billy West) and Leela's (Katey Sagal) long-running courtship. Of course, there were also a couple of episodes like "Neutopia" and "Yo Leela Leela" that didn't quite measure up to the series' standards.
Regardless, "Futuruma" is one of the rare animated series that shows real heart mixed in with hilarious writing and vocal performances. It's everything we used to love about "The Simpsons." And with at least two more years on Comedy Central, there's a bright future ahead of the series.
On paper, "Wilfred" is a show that shouldn't work. It follows the misadventures of a suicidal man named Ryan (Elijah Wood), who is roped by his sexy neighbor, Jenna (Fiona Gubelmann) into taking care of her dog, Wilfred (Jason Gann); whom only Ryan can perceive as a surly Australian man in a cheap dog suit. The anthropomorphic Wilfred also displays a talent for manipulating Ryan into awkward situations as a way of getting him out from under his depression.
"Wilfred" had a few creative stumbles along the way, especially when focusing on implied beastiality. But the last few episodes of the season turned the series towards a very dark finale, in which Ryan takes what he has learned from Wilfred's machinations and he attempts to manipulate Jenna into a romantic relationship. The fallout causes Ryan's sister to angrily disown him, in addition to leading Jenna towards marriage with a man she doesn't love and some apparent brain damage to Wilfred; who no longer recognizes Ryan.
But the crowning touch comes in the final moments when Ryan no longer knows what's real and what isn't. It was a brilliant ending for the season and a great hook for a new round of episodes coming next summer.
5: 30 ROCK
The power of "30 Rock" was apparent during the recent death of North Korean "Supreme Leader" Kim Jong il, when fans of the series were more concerned about how his demise would affect the new season of "30 Rock."
For those of you who don't follow the show, Margaret Cho portrayed Kim Jong il during the fifth season, when he kidnapped Avery Jessup (Elizabeth Banks) and forced her to marry, Kim Jong-un; who is now the new "Supreme Leader" of North Korea.
But that's just the sideshow. The core of "30 Rock" is still the dynamic between Liz Lemon (Tina Fey) and her boss Jack Donaghy (Alec Baldwin), along with the rest of the ensemble cast including Jane Krakowski, Tracy Morgan, Jack McBrayer, Scott Adsit and Judah Friedlander.
Thanks to Fey and her team of writers, "30 Rock" is still a consistently smart comedy. And while there's still speculation as to whether this will be the last year of the show or whether Baldwin will depart; "30 Rock" remains among the best on TV.
In a year without "The Venture Bros.," at least we had "Archer."
The second season of FX's offbeat animated spy comedy embraced an unexpected week-to-week continuity as Sterling Archer (H. Jon Benjamin) was tricked into providing child support for a kid that wasn't his before battling cancer in a brilliantly dark two part episode. Even the season finale picked up the threads of Archer's escape from Russia and his doomed engagement with Katya Kasanova.
Make no mistake, Sterling Archer is a great spy despite his narcissism and his boorish nature. And "Archer" works as a series thanks in large part to its supporting cast; including Malory Archer (Jessica Walter), Lana (Aisha Tyler), Cyril (Chris Parnell), Cheryl (Judy Greer), Pam (Amber Nash) and Ray, who is voiced by series creator, Adam Reed.
"Archer" is also one of the most quotable comedies on TV, courtesy of Reed and his writers. Among animated series this year, no other show was as strong as "Archer."
3: PARKS AND RECREATION
"Parks and Recreation" owes a great deal of its success to its fantastic supporting cast, including the great Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson, Chris Pratt as Andy Dwyer, Aubrey Plaza as April Ludgate and Rashida Jones as Ann Perkins. For the third season, the producers of "Parks and Recreation" wisely bumped both Adam Scott and Rob Lowe to series regulars; which infused the series with a breath of fresh air.
Scott's vulnerable nerd, Ben Wyatt mitigates some of the harsher edges of Amy Poehler's Leslie Knope and bring her back down to Earth in a relatable way. And Lowe has revealed some serious comedic chops as the overzealous Chris Traeger; who is sometimes both friend and antagonist to Leslie and her beloved office mates.
Poehler is a genuinely funny leading lady, but Offerman's Ron Swanson is still the best reason to watch "Parks and Recreation." If only "The Office" was still this fun…
2: CURB YOUR ENTHUSIASM
On some TV shows, characters strive to become better people. On "Curb Your Enthusiasm," Larry David is willing to travel great distances to avoid charity appearances and even slight social obligations. Basically, he's an a**hole and we love him anyway.
HBO's best comedy returned for its eighth season after a two year hiatus and "Curb Your Enthusiasm" didn't miss a step. With the departure of Cheryl Hines, Larry David portrayed his fictional counterpart's return to the dating world alongside his returning costars, Jeff Garlin, Susie Essman and J.B. Smoove. Most of the episodes set in New York didn't really add much to the series, aside from a memorable confrontation between Larry and Michael J. Fox.
However, the eighth season did have a few instant classic episodes like "Palestinian Chicken," "The Hero," "Vow of Silence" and "Mister Softee." There's clearly a lot of life left in "Curb" as a series, it's just a question of whether Larry David wants to continue doing the show. Hopefully, he will come back for another year at least.
For the second year in a row, "Community" is our pick for the best comedy on television.
This is also NBC's best show, so of course the network has pulled it from the schedule and potentially imperiled the series' chances of getting another season.
Some have argued that "Community" may be too ambitious to connect with a large audience. I don't believe that for a second. There has to be a place on TV for a series that can produce brilliant episodes like "Advanced Dungeons & Dragons," "A Fistful of Paintballs," "Horror Fiction in Seven Spooky Steps" and the unforgettable "Remedial Chaos Theory;" which explores the idea of multiple timelines in one of the most clever bottle episodes that I've ever seen.
"Community" also boasts the strongest comedic cast on television, with Joel McHale, Donald Glover, Alison Brie, Yvette Nicole Brown, Danny Pudi, Gillian Jacobs, Ken Jeong, Chevy Chase and even the newest regular, Jim Rash. From the writing to the acting and everything in-between, "Community" is almost perfect in every way. No other comedy on television can compare.
And it's important to note that this show isn't dead yet. "Community" may be off of the midseason schedule, but new episodes are going to come back at some point. So in the mean time, keep telling your friends about the series and tweet to to #sixseasonsandamovie and #savecommunity!
Let's go Greendale human beings!